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Last night I attempted the jock column single player mission. Being new to CMAK I inevitably ran in to problems about halfway through the game.

I played as the allies and it became clear that in it was necessary to secure the hill to the East known as point 138. This is the only bit of significant high-ground on the map and I intended to use it as an observation post for artillery and mortars to cover the main advance through the centre of the map.

I embarked an entire platoon on the South side of the hill encountering only limited infantry resistance on the way. I then advanced several units over the apex of the hill only to find an enemy trench position immediately on the other side of the apex. Inside the trench was a light gun which was being used to bring fire upon the rest of my forces. Directly behind the trench was a machine-gun position as well as several straggled infantry units. I attempted to gain control of the trench using the assault command but all of my units were shot to pieces and routed back down the hill.

My question is: How do I defeat the German infantry forces on the North side of the hill?

Incidentally, the majority of my infantry were already loaded into trucks in the setup phase. Not being sure what to do, I unloaded them from the trucks and advanced them across the battlefield on foot, not using the trucks for the remainder of the game. Was this the correct thing to do?

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Don't advance until all the enemies you're advancing on are head down. Get them head down by sitting where you are and shooting them. Also, get a HQ close and keep your mortars where he can't see them, then area fire on the trench.

When they're head down, advance one platoon into the trench, or somewhere where you have 90 degrees or more separation from your other forces.

Separation is a force multiplier.

The best way to defeat the enemy is to shoot at him, not to go over and try to club him to death - that happens later.

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Suppress-Suppress-suppress til he's crawling on his belly in a panic, then go in for the kill. Mortars have the advantage of a high angle of attack and late war the Americans have air-burst artillery. But it might cost more than its worth to overcome a trench system with overwatch mgs behind it. That's a very nasty setup.

I've sorta forgot how Jock Column's constructed (I'll have to go replay it tonight). Can this area simply be isolated & encircled? What's your opinion of winning on points with cut-off enemy units still on the maps instead of spending all your points to totally annhilate the opponent?

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Originally posted by Other Means:

Also, get a HQ close and keep your mortars where he can't see them, then area fire on the trench.

Sorry, why have the mortars where he can't see them?

Originally posted by Other Means:

When they're head down, advance one platoon into the trench, or somewhere where you have 90 degrees or more separation from your other forces.

Separation is a force multiplier.

What do you mean by 90 degrees or more separation?

MikeyD, I'd be very interested to hear how you take the hill in jock column if you play it tonight.

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About the first question, if the enemy can't see your mortars he can't target them. Being able to target from behind cover by using an officer to spot was a major advancement over the old CMBO v1.0 setup. It works for mortar carrying half-tracks too! :D

By 90 degree separation he means - to missquote Patton - grabbing him by the nose and kicking him in the arse. If you can engage a unit from both the front and rear at the same time he'll break for sure.

"I'd be very interested to hear how you take the hill"

...should probably read "whether you take the hill" ;)

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OK, this post contains spoilers, so don't read it if you want to get your tail kicked by this scenario without seeing it coming. Personally I'd call that a small loss.

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Spoiler alert

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First thing to understand is that this scenario is gravely unbalanced as a human vs. human game. The German defenders are simply vastly too powerful for the mission and Brits faced. It should be played against a German AI with the default set up, you can play it repeatedly, you can safely look at the whole thing and pick it apart.

It comes out of the "if it is hard it must be good" school of scenario design, with liberal portions of annoying movie scripting (the designer has a definite "plot" in mind he wants you to fall into, which features your men dying pointlessly and said designer cackling with evil glee).

Personally I despise this sort of thing. But some take it as an enjoyable challenge, to beat one, as a "puzzle". This is a beatable puzzle. It is just that to beat it, you not only have to use your various (frankly, shoestring) weapons well (which is a good thing, and the best aspect of this scenario), but realistically speaking also need to exploit some of the glaring weaknesses of the AI as an enemy commander - which is not so good a thing. You can work hard and get a difficult win and still feel cheap.

Now to particulars. The first reason this is unbalanced is that a single veteran infantry company is expected to attack across open desert against a full veteran infantry company in trenches. The attackers have no odds edge whatsoever. The defenders have better infantry and just as much of it (2 LMG squads vs standard Brits, each 9), better HMGs, equal numbers of mortars though not as good ones, as much and better light armor.

And second reason, a biggie, the defenders also have more heavy AFVs and vastly better ones - indeed ones ridiculously good for most of the period in theater, historically. Specifically, the attackers get 3 Stuarts (early model) and the defenders - on turn 12 as a reinforcement it is true - get 4 Pz IV longs, one of them crack and the rest veteran. With a covered entry area behind a well defended ridge etc.

The whole thing is thus a negative odds attack in the open. Only the cluelessness of the AI as a commander gives the Brits the slightest chance.

Then there are the shoestring weapons on the Brit side, which are the real theme of the scenario. It is meant to show how the Brits fought with a grab bag of general weapons, only a few particularly good at their job, and made it work by having the right weapon for each task and using it for that. In reality they also had odds in situations like this, did not face uber armor, and were more likely to have uber armor themselves (in the form of their heavy infantry tanks, Matildas and Valentines). Leaving aside the commentary, here is what you get to work with and what it is good for.

3 Stuarts. They are quite thin. Armored enough to stop 37mm AP from the front, or 28mm at long range (1000m) with front facing only, and 20mm or MG fire all ranges and aspects. No chance of stopping 50mm let along 75mm fire. Their own guns can kill the German PSWs and the Panzers with side shots or from close enough (under 500m is best, 600-700 possible).

Their best use, though, is against infantry. They have 3 MGs each and if they can live through the armor war, they can be parked 100m from infantry in a trench and hose it to pinned. They can also advance there in the open and get full spots of guys shooting. But for that to work they have to live long enough - and they can't be expected to kill 4 Panzer IVs and take on 3 entrenched PAK by themselves.

Next you get 4 2 pdr Portees. These are extremely vulnerable to all sorts of fire, being unarmored trucks. In this particular fight, 81mm mortars are their bane, and the PSWs can give them trouble with autocannon accuracy for their 20mm guns. Their own firepower is purely AP, they have no HE shells at all. They can kill the PSWs. They can hurt the Panzers with flank shots at range (1000m or so). To hurt through front aspect they would need to get close, and they will not live trying it.

Their best use is split into 2 pairs and parked in brush covering the center of the map, crossfire fashion. They fire through their rear aspect, incidentally, so you want to turn them around. They are likely to trade off with PSWs in the first few minutes. After that you just want crossfire from 1 each covering the ridges for when the German armor arrives. Dismounted 2 pdrs would be superior in every respect, incidentally.

Next you have your strongest 2 units in this game, a pair of 25 pdr field pieces. Those can kill the Panzers easily at range. Not the greatest muzzle velocity and therefore not the greatest accuracy at more than 1000m, which can make them lose duels with Panzers - but they are still your best bet to KO those as they crest.

They also have useful HE but not a ton of it - 3 and 4 minutes of fire, about. If you use them on enemy infantry early, you have to worry about enemy mortars taking them out before the Panzers arrive - that will lose you the game. The safest bet is to stay stationary in a shellhole or brush until the Panzers appear over a crest, and use the HE afterward. That is how you would have to use them against a human.

But the most mileage out of them vs. the AI - and you will have to "game it" (exploit having seen the German layout in a previous attempt, I mean) to get it right - is to avoid LOS from the 81s, toss the HE at the German infantry, and then use the fact that the AI is too brain dead to avoid LOS to a known gun position to engage the Panzers anyway once they appear.

They also have your only useful smoke shells, even to obscure a single firing position for a few minutes on two occasions, basically. That is also a key ability you have to use or preserve. The idea is simply to cut off one of the supporting German positions while engaging a different one (which everyone else I mean).

Next come the 3 inch mortars, your longest suit really. You have 3 of them and they come with around 66 HE each. The way to think about that is 24 mortar-minutes, and then think of allocating that over 3 enemy guns, 2 enemy HMGs, and 9 enemy squads. You can afford 2-3 mortar minues per gun and 2 per HMG. Only one for any other unit. Once a enemy gun is located, your mortars have to silence it before it does any more damage.

A trick there is to use the mortar to *get* a pin, and then use something else to *keep* that pin. A unit that is already heads down because HE scared them, will be fine again in 2 minutes flat if left alone. And you can't afford to keep firing at it over and over with the 3 inches - you will kill 3-6 units that way, but leave most alive and kicking. Instead, pin with a 3 inch and them put a Vickers on the target, or the MGs from a Stuart, or in a pinch a squad of infantry at 300m with Brens and rifles. The idea is just to prevent rally, by bumping the morale state lower as fast as rally brings it back up.

You have 4 unarmed carriers that can move mortars or Vickers MGs closer. But they will die to the PAK, or the 20mm on the PSWs, or the Panzers - and you can't afford to lose even one 3 inch mortar. So only use them to reposition things after the enemy AT net is thinned, over routes you have already travelled, etc. In the meantime keep them in low ground, and keep the mortars in shellholes or patches of rocky.

You also have 3 Boys ATRs, whose uses are (1) spotting and (2) harassing the PSWs early. Put them as far forward as you can and on the flanks, anywhere with a scrap of cover. Open with them on the PSWs whenever you have LOS.

Your 2 inch mortars aren't nearly as useful as the 3 inch, but can smoke or pin one enemy shooter.

As for your infantry, first thing to understand is there is no way in heck for 9 squads to march across 1000m of open desert and tackle 9 2-LMG squads and 2 HMGs in trenches. Give up that notion right away. You are going to take out (1) and only (1) of the enemy platoon positions, realistically speaking, with infantry assault.

If you have anything left to hurt another afterward, count yourself lucky. And you will onyl succeed against either by having the local fight by 9 against 3-4 (counting an MG), and then repeating it as 7 against 3-4 with your survivors (after they have had time to rally etc).

Even those, you will only carry if the 3 inches have pinned some things and light fire is maintaining those pins, the 25 pdrs have plastered a trench or two, the Stuarts have crawled (alive) to 100m away and are hosing away with MGs, and the next strongpoint over is smoked at the "mad minute" when you move into range.

Puzzle, remember? Everything has to do its specific part.

Next point is that you cannot under any circumstances travel down the road to the middle of the map. It is pure kill sack. The designer's script reads "PSWs in the middle act as bait, attackers clobber them and advance into the center. All PAK open on them from 3 sides, many boresighted, mortars rain down etc. Result mayhem. Attackers fight their way out of it but are cut in half, then 4 uber Panzers crawl over the ridge and shoot the heck out of the other half. Cackle."

So you have to go down one edge. The right is better for various reasons. It gives the 28mm PAK longer shots, less likely to hit and more likely to bounce if a Stuart is facing them. (Downside, you are less likely to spot it). You will also be closer range to the Panzers if or when they crest.

In general the procedure is infantry advances shellhole to shellhole until something shoots them up, they eventually get close enough to spot the shooters or the trenches (~170-200m typically), then they wallow there while your heavier stuff works over the trenches with forward slope LOS. That done, infantry hugs the near side of the hill - and promptly draws ranged fire from the opposite strongpoint. Smoke them or repeat.

If you've won the armor war, Stuarts can maneuver more aggressively and lead infantry in places, but only if mortars have killed the guns and the 25 pdrs, 2 pdrs, and Stuarts between them have accounted for the Panzers.

There is one other key gamey stupid AI trick that works in this scenario. The defenders short suit is ammo depth for their infantry firepower. Their squads have 35 shots each, that is about 6 minutes. Their mortars have about 25 HE each, about 4 minutes. So you hang some infantry out but not too close, let the trigger happy AI (no fire discipline) blaze away at them pretty much unanswered, then rally for 3 minutes, and now you can close.

They may have cover 5 times as good, but if they have 6 ammo left apiece and you have 54, it won't be enough. The trick with this is not to press in too close to fast. It isn't a race, it is a pain enduring contest, and every bullet they fire at you at 300m is one they won't have left to throw at 100.

The enemy armor and guns you can't afford to leave shooting, those you have to silence with KOs. But the long range crossing fire from infantry, just take the pain and they will run dry - same with the mortar fire. Just don't bunch up, and use the shellholes and scraps of brush to rally in.

Last gamey thing is how to pick your fights with all the defenders, so you use each of your weapons as stated above and the AI never gets just the right match up. It is, your trucks are not man-movers, they are smog machines. Go ahead and get a few killed making walls of dust when you need them, e.g. to hide your Stuarts from all his Panzers if they are together, or save infantry from crossing fire when they are panicking, or block LOS for one of his PAK that remains an annoying sound contact so your mortars can't kill it yet.

Playing games with poor AI fire discipline (to suck out its ammo before you close) and suicidal smokescreen truckers, is not my idea of an enjoyable CM tactics workout, but it is par for this particular course.

FWIW.

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I'll try and keep this post short as I've been playing CMAK for the past several hours and it's now 5am :rolleyes:

I tried the jock column mission again and suffered a major defeat, although it was a vast improvement on the last attempt.

It never ceased to amaze me just how tenacious the entrenched enemy were regardless of how much fire was directed upon them. I managed to take one of the trenches but only after losing many men and using a great deal of ammunition in covering fire. It seems as though one can repeatedly direct HE, mortars and HMG fire at a trench with little effect on the occupants other than to temporarily suppress them.

The main problem I encountered was the limited supply of heavy munitions. Mortars, in particular, seemed to run out of ammo very quickly and this often left infantry units unsupported.

Later in the game three enemy panzers rolled onto the scene and dominated the battlefield North of the hill. By this stage all my tanks had been knocked-out and all the mortar ammo was used-up. The only option was to try and knock-out the panzers with howitzer fire but the HQ couldn't get into a decent spotting position without incurring the wroth of all three panzers.

Originally posted by Other Means:

Sorry - you did know that a mortar in command of a HQ, as shown by the little red lines linking them, can shoot wherever the HQ can see?

Sure, directing mortar fire was covered in the tutorial.

This game is tough a nut to crack. How much more difficult it must have been in real life without the convenience of an overhead view of the battlefield from multiple angles!

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JasonC, I just read your post. How long have you been playing CM? :D

With regards to the 2pdr-portees: As you say, they get wacked real easy by all sorts of fire due to their lack of armour. I found that 3 of them got knocked-out in 1 minute by a German HMG at a range of about 500m. It's difficult knowing where exactly to place them so that they are relatively safe yet effective.

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Put 2 in the patch of brush near the left map edge, about halfway across your set up zone on the axis of advance. Those, all the way to the edge, pretty much, and about 30m apart (not within 25m or fire at one will scare the other).

Put the other two in brush on the right, closer to the back of the map. But not the 2-3 farthest tiles to the right in that patch. The farthest ones right can be seen by the German mortar position on the left side of their defense. But a bit farther in and the crest will block their direct view.

At those distances, the MGs aren't much to worry about. You should never close with them. Yeah they have better chances against Panzers from the front at 500m, but they will never survive in that close. Instead you want them shooting at the PSWs early, and then taking flank shots at cresting Panzers around turn 15 or so.

In between, reverse them 10-20m closer to the Germans (they should be facing away from them at set up), and then back, to make a dust cloud. Keep backing and forthing to generate dust if you don't have a target to engaged. When you want to fire, just extend the reverse move to appear out of the dust, halt there and fire. You can always fast move back into the dust if too threatened the next turn.

Half of them will still die soon - just too touchy - and the others likely won't live the game out. But if they KO a couple of PSWs and get in some shots on the Panzers, they've done their bit.

The best Panzer killers are the 25 pdrs, but you don't want to spot for those - they can't fire indirect, only direct. Aim at the middle of a spotted trench for one minute, expecting 2-3 rounds to be close enough to do something. Then switch to another trench. You can hide those by having a truck drive in front of them (dust screen) and "hide" in the meantime. When the dust clears the enemy will have lost you, as long as you are in shellhole, brush or rocky, far enough away, and not firing.

As for limited ammo vs. the trenches, the key is to first pin with HE and then maintain the pin with small arms - MGs and the squad fire. This won't kill, it will only suppress, but it is what you need to do. Only fire 2 minutes of HE in a row at a gun, not at infantry. Against infantry, if they are already pinned more HE is a waste.

Breaking guys in trenches can come from 25 pdr shells particularly close, from a tank parked within 100m hosing continually, or from half a company of infantry firing at 100m or less. Avoid throwing your squad shots at excessive range, those have to be close to be effective against such good cover.

Infantry at grenade range (35m) also gets it done, but that comes after they are pinned, and that only needs 1 squad. (You don't want to risk whole platoons if they pop back up, etc, so most fire from 70-100m, one closed to throw grenades). You don't need to run on top of them until they are crawling themselves.

No question though trenches are tough. As explained in my previous, the trick is to "eat" their ammo farther away, and then throw your own in close. If 9 squads fire 30 times at 100m, they can beat 3 firing 30 times at 250m, even if the cover is 50% for one and 10% for the other.

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Infantry hill attack?!?!

I replayed "Longshot Hill" yesterday, thinking that now that I know the enemy setup I would crush the enemy easily!

Alas, the problems remained the same as in my first attempt (I got a minor victory on that occasion), only that the artillery and the Luftwaffe proved to be more deadly this time around thanks to my more bunched up forces.

Bottom line: trenches are nasty no matter what you throw at them!!!

Best regards,

Thomm

PS: Of course it was a magic moment when the Luftwaffe blew up their tactically most important AT gun all by themselves, albeit after blowing my force that was tasked to destroy that gun to pieces with a aerial bomb! Madness! :D

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When I read tactical discussions of scenario's like this I just salivate... it sounds so amazingly fun.

I'm just a brandnewbie, and I never have damn time to play.... One day, one day...

anyone care to suggest a series of good beginner missions that might have some tactical advice somewere to go with them. Like training misisons?

Thanks,

Javaslinger

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I put the 25 pdrs near the center and slightly left of the road, in shellholes. Facing slightly right. You want them to cover the ridge on ahead of you on the right side of the map, including the trenches on its forward slope and crest, and any tanks that appear there. You do not want them in LOS of the main German mortar position on their left. As for moving them, definitely not. I moved a 3 inch up in a carrier to get LOS beyond the ridge after reaching it, but the 25 pdrs are "own-side-of-the-map" critters.

As for the fellow who commented on losing his tanks without spotting "the gun", maybe that is because there are 3 of them. Also one is a 28mm sPzB, which is quite stealthy when it fires but still able to penetrate the front of the Stuarts at medium range, and the sides anywhere. (You need ~1000m distance and front aspect to bounce those).

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Yep. Not only wide open, but all kinds of reverse slope stuff and interlocking fires from them blocking approach to each other etc. Normally, when one attacks such things, one has some sort of odds. Here there are as many defenders as attackers and they are better armed, plus more and seriously better defending armor, too. As I said, the only way the attacker can win this is by stressing the AIs weakest qualities - "stupid AI tricks". Not my cup of tea, personally.

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They didn't have 6 pdr I tanks at the time this is meant to depict as typically, really. I tanks worked with infantry a lot but not on long range desert column work, which required significantly faster tanks to keep up.

A better solution is to reduce the German defending infantry by one squad from each platoon position, make the 50mm PAK another 37mm, and replace the full platoon of Panzer IV longs with a pair of Pz III shorts. Also drop one of the 81mms, leaving just 2 in the main center-right rear mortar position.

This gives the Brits something like 3 to 2 odds. Also, the Germans might be dug in only in the sense of foxholes rather than everyone being in trenches. With maybe 2-4 trenches max, for say the 28mm PAK, the mortar position perhaps, and maybe the HMG-34s.

The Brits should also get a 25 pdr FO. (The 2 towed can stay, but they did not need LOS as much as those do). Realistically they would also probably have half a dozen bren carriers (in addition to the universals for the mortars).

In game effectiveness terms, one might also substitute MMG carriers for the Vickers foot teams, and towed 2 pdrs for the portees.

(Although part of the point of the scenario might be the attempt to get a portee to do anything besides die rapidly, the game engine doesn't really reflect their real usefulness, and the dismounts will do so better).

That would give a much more accurate picture of this sort of fighting, which was not an attempt at negative odds attacks across open desert in trucks, but all arms reducing weaker enemy positions by everyone doing their job.

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The post above reminds me of something I had said earlier - that unlike scripted shooter games a CM scenario wasn't necessarily designed to be won. Maybe the object of the designer was to show just what sort of troubles a historically composed unit can find itself in. The point of the scenario might be to lose but learn a valuable lesson in the process.

At least that's what I kepp telling myself every time I lose. ;)

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